Free Scrum Training – The history of Scrum

A common question is “What does Scrum stand for?” Scrum doesn’t stand for anything; it’s a term taken from the article that inspired Scrum and derived from rugby. As Ken Schwaber, co-creater of Scrum likes to joke, Scrum is;

a cordial meeting between two opposing teams to politely discuss the ownership of a ball.

But what is the article that inspired Scrum, and where does Scrum come from? I’ll answer this and more in the video below:


Hi, I’m Kane Mar. The starting point for Scrum is an article entitled, “The New New Product Development Game,” that was written by Takeuchi and Nonaka and was published in the January, 86 Edition of the Harvard Business Review. Let me talk briefly about why this article came to be written. Throughout the late 70s and the early 80s, there was a big push by Japanese manufacturers into the North American market.

The two most feasible markets where this occurred were the consumer electronics and the automotive markets. A good example was the Sony Walkman, which started as tape players in the early 1980s, and ended as CD players in the late 1980s. In the automotive industry, the Japanese were moving into North America.

They were doing this by producing products that people wanted of a very consistent quality. In particular, they had identified that there was a demand for small cars, that were cheap to run and maintain. By consistently focusing on the human market needs, they were able to expand their market share over a period of time.

Takeuchi and Nonaka are two widely regarded academics in Japan. They had done a survey of a whole variety of different companies including Honda, Fuji Xerox, and Canon. They had found that these companies use similar patterns to produce new high quality products. They published this work as The New New Product Development Game in the January, 86th edition of the Harvard Business Review.

This article was picked up by the creators of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early 1990s. Jeff and Ken liked the ideas presented as part of this paper and decided to apply them to their field which was software development. They iterated over these ideas for a number of years and finally formalized Scrum at a conference called OOP SLA in 1995. Many people who were new to Scrum assumed that it is an acronym, or an abbreviation. This is incorrect. The term
Scrum is derived directly from The New New Product Development Game, where they draw a direct analogy between the sport of Rugby and the creation of new products. They contrasted a sequential or relay race approach to delivering products to a Rugby approach, where the team tries to go to the distance as a unit. Always passing the ball backwards, but still moving down the field.